India has undeniably one of the best diplomatic corpus anywhere in the world and on the other hand, supremely valiant armed forces who are protecting our sovereignty of our nation. From Krishna Menon’s longest speech at UN about India’s indisputable right to Kashmir to recent aggressive rebuttals made by Indian diplomats at the United Nations exposing Pakistani defaming of the Indian governments, our diplomats have always been at front representing our nation with fierce determination. From the monumental Non Aligned Movement to the epic Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty of 1971 that paved the way for Indian victory in South Asia despite the superpower United States backing Pakistan, Indian diplomacy has always made out a way for itself on the international stages.

On the other hand, words would also fall short of expressing valour and sacrifice of Indian armed forces for protecting the sovereignty of our great nation. From splitting Pakistan into two parts after forcing the biggest surrender (of Pakistani soldiers) since the end of World War 2 to the brave victory on Kargil front considered the most difficult war terrains in the entire world, Indian miltary’s valour knows no bounds. Perhaps, the synergy of our organizations at various levels have always worked in the best interests of national security of India.

The recent skirmishes in Ladakh have pointed out what should be the roles of armed forces and diplomacy in matters of geo-strategic interests. It is true that the governments which are elected on popular mandate have the political, moral and executive right to decide on issues of national interest taking advice from military and diplomatic experts. But how do our governments balance out roles of both sides which are important stakeholders in matters of geo strategic importance. An apt example of how both diplomacy and military were in total sync was that of the 1971 Bangladesh War.

From the very beginning, PM Indira Gandhi had given free hand to our military generals to take necessary action on their will (famous example being of General Sam Manekshaw deciding to carry out the military strikes in early December). Diplomatically, the government went ahead with informing the world about the plight of East Pakistanis and how India was suffering because of the influx of migrants while military action plans were going on in full swing. The massive victory was totally opposite to the defeat at Chinese hands in 1962. The 1962 war was a result of failure of strategic decision at some fronts- ITBP instead of army was posted at Indo-Chinese borders, the trust PM Nehru had reposed in ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai’ had backfired. There was another strategic miscalculation- Indian diplomatic stance on Tibet was sporadically changed irking the Chinese. 

After agreeing to the territorial autonomy of Chinese over Tibet in Panchsheel agreement, Indian actions in respect to Tibet took a turn which was not entirely in interest of India. Air force not being used in the warfare of 1962 continues to be hotly debated even today. However, India learnt a huge lesson from the treachery of China and then shifted its entire focus on both eastern and western borders. The results were visible in the 1965 war with Pakistan and 1967 clashes with Chinese.

Indian combat actions in West Pakistan and Chumbi Valley helped it gain tactical advantages in these positions. Diplomatically, India had effectively carried out a merger with Sikkim in 1974 much to chagrin of China. Another widely debated issue remains the Simla Agreement. It had generated a dichotomy whether the gains made by Indian victory were consolidated. 

Undoubtedly, India became the regional hegemonic power in South Asia. Many experts had commented that India could have made further gains in Kashmir albeit the Simla Agreement. The internationalisation of Kashmir problem in 1948 had been contested by many experts till date.

The root of the Kashmir problem remains widely debated. However, the Simla Agreement that called for India and Pakistan to solve the Kashmir issue bilaterally, which till date remains an international safeguard for squarely rejecting any international claims on mediation on Kashmir. This was evoked recently when the American President had made attempts to mediate in the Kashmir crisis. 

Strategic and long term vision in requisite in successful diplomacy. Diplomacy might be extremely successful to obtain objectives in  non-traditional components of security. However, strategic security objectives required a balanced component of diplomatic and militaristic means.

Military forces assume utmost importance in the decisions of national security perhaps even more than the diplomacy. The government has to use both military and diplomacy to obtain the national security objectives. The current Chinese crisis that has been precipitated after India and China had conducted two informal summits at Wuhan and Mamallapuram for trust building. Notedly, these informal summits were conducted in the aftermath of the Doklam crisis. The situation seems to be very tense presently at the Line of Actual Control. 

Though, diplomatic initiatives between India and China  have been accrued in the past to diffuse the tensions. Once again, we could see diplomatic attempts made to diffuse the current tensions , evident from the Moscow summit between the foreign ministers of India, China and Russia. As geopolitical strategist, Brahma Chellaney points out that the lack of militaristic use could be detrimental to India’s prospects in the Eastern Ladakh. India needs to learn from the mistakes of the past and not to repeat them.Though, this comes as a surprise, when the current government had taken tough and aggressive military stances in the past especially the counter-actions on Pakistan.

Many experts and defence commentators believe diplomatic softening might not be as helpful to counter China which has been on an aggressive land-grabbing spree. The attempt to counter Chinese expansionist agenda via the path of cooperative development might sound well. India through various attempts like the NAM showed the madhya path to the world. In the heavily polarized world of the 1960s, India showed a way to the world. But when it comes to borders and matters of utmost strategic importance, the military assumes supreme importance. India has realized the importance of military diplomacy.

India now conducts joint military operations with a handful of nations and India is gradually  developing close defence ties with the United States. There are talks to formalize defence ties between India, United States, Australia and Japan. Indian navy is also ready to take up strategic positions to directly counter Chinese aggression in the Indian ocean. This given, the situation in Ladakh needs to be handled cautiously as this is going to have implications on Asia and the world. India irrespective of different governments has always fiercely protected her sovereignty and integrity. 

Other article in this series:

Dirty politics that looted India

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